R Avenue is a month out from dropping its debut EP, "Messed It Up." - Courtesy of Neal Zeleznak

Surprises of 2019: R Avenue, The Weekend Run Club, Littlebirds — Neal Zeleznak

Editor’s note: Over the next week, we take a look at some of the bands who jumped out at us in 2019. Leading up to that, we asked some friends and scene contributors for their picks, too. Today, Neal Zeleznak, Chicago concert photographer and an important partner of Chicago Sound Check, tells us about some new favorites from 2019.

R Avenue

Eddie Fay, frontman of R Avenue brings an explosive level of passion and energy to his performance and to the band. These guys unleash a heavy-hitting and groovy take to rock that will leave you out of breath and sweating. Their audience crowds tightly around the stage and reflects the energy being delivered by the band. The result is a riotous experience. I look forward to seeing what lies ahead for this band. They just finished their debut EP, “Messed It Up,” which we can expect in February 2020. Check out R Avenue on Facebook and Instagram.

— Neal Zeleznak


The Weekend Run Club
The Weekend Run Club is nearing the finish line on a new album, out soon. – Courtesy of Brian Shamie

The Weekend Run Club

My first time catching The Weekend Run Club, they were supporting Marina City and Emily Blue at Chop Shop. I didn’t know what I was walking into but was immediately sucked in by the collective vigor on stage. Each member of this band brings their own individual style and personality to the table. Their songs are passionate, emotional and will make you want to swing around the dance floor. The band has just finished recording a new album, and I for one can’t wait to hear it. Hear The Weekend Run Club on Spotify, check out their Instagram and watch for their album release show announcement (coming next week).

— Neal Zeleznak

See more: The Weekend Run Club – Chop Shop 4/5/19


Littlebirds
Littlebirds recently played one of the final sets at its “home nest,” Elbo Room, before the venue closed down. – Courtesy of Neal Zeleznak

Littlebirds

Littlebirds is a dynamic unit that feels much more like a big family then an assorted group of musicians. The first time I caught their performance, they were playing the Cubby Bear, opening the stage for Zorilla. I was immediately taken by their covers of Radiohead and Florence and the Machine. So much so that I felt compelled to speak with leading lady Michelle after their set. She invited me to come hang with them at Elbo Room for one of the final performances at the fabled venue. The band has called Elbo Room their “home nest” for 4 years, and this night was a bittersweet sendoff. The evening felt like a big family gathering more so than a concert. The nostalgia was thick in the room, as the farewell vibes blended with the energetic set of covers. Looking forward to seeing this band multiple times in the coming year. Hear the band on Spotify and see them when Littlebirds joins The Corcoran Brothers Band on the Uncommon Ground stage ( 3800 N. Clark St., Chicago) Thursday, Jan. 16; and Friday, Feb. 7, at North Bar ( 1637 W. North Ave., Chicago)

— Neal Zeleznak